Where does innovation come from? As the projects in our third annual Promising People, Projects, and Products issue demonstrate, the influences are as varied as the innovations themselves. Experimentation is not limited to a specific time or place; it can exist anywhere at anytime, from the world of academia to everyday practice and all points in between. Some investigations are born out of necessity, when actual projects demand new solutions to technical or design problems. Other endeavors start from theoretical beginnings. Regardless of the reason, the quest to explore new materials and forms, challenging existing practices, and finding efficient solutions is eternally integral to the design process.

The following five discussions-of projects and processes-are exciting examples of what can happen when all the right ingredients are in play. Although each has many inventive elements, specific components stood out for us as emblematic of trends afoot in the industry. These include themes of education, research, design and manufacturing partnerships, technique, and solar strategies. Solid-state lighting and LEDs are elevated from a pure color-changing spectacle to an energy-efficient solar-gathering device in Cloud-9's Hotel Habitat in Barcelona. Academy and practice unite in Virginia Tech's Solar Decathlon Competition entry, promoting interdisciplinary collaboration among students and manufacturers in an effort to create the energy-efficient home of tomorrow. In 'Drawing Upon the Future,' the technique of hand rendering reemerges with a new relevancy amid today's computer technology revolutions. Leading researchers and practitioners come together to prove K-12 classroom design has not been explored to its fullest potential where solar strategies and daylighting techniques are concerned. Finally, in the Garonne River project, site and technical requirements spur the creation of a new luminaire that exceeds performance expectations while making a poetic statement about landscape lighting.

The 'ah-hah' moment when the proverbial light bulb goes on cannot be planned. Innovation happens when least expected, a combination of hard work and happy accident. Yet, no matter the specific area of investigation, there are elements that need to be present to promote creativity-imagination, curiosity, persistence, daring, and playfulness. These conditions must be encouraged to exist. So read on. We hope these projects begin the process. A|L